John E. O'Neill

John O’Neill is a partner in the firm’s Houston office. An experienced trial lawyer, Mr. O’Neill concentrates his practice in large-scale commercial litigation and arbitration, particularly securities claims, trade secret litigation, environmental litigation, and class action litigation. He has tried to verdict many state and federal court cases and arbitrations.

In 2002, he secured the largest individual securities arbitration award ever obtained in Lerma, et al. v. UBS. He also successfully represented the Oil Ministry of China in the first-ever case filed by the People’s Republic of China outside of China in the 1989 Daqing Petroleum matter. In addition, he represented the United States government in securing multibillion-dollar qui tam settlements in the Thompson v. Columbia litigation in 2003. Mr. O’Neill has also tried many oil and gas cases.

His arbitration experience included trying many commercial arbitrations, as well as serving as an arbitrator in numerous large commercial matters.

  • Basic Resources v. ELF Litigation. Served as co-counsel for Brisa, obtaining, after numerous hearings and an arbitration, a large nine-figure settlement.
  • Daqing Petroleum Bureau v. Brinkmann. Successfully represented the Oil Ministry of China in a jury trial in the first case ever filed by the Peoples’ Republic of China in the United States.
  • Gyrodata v. Baker Hughes. Represented plaintiff in a case involving theft of trade secrets based on complex and valuable technology.
  • Huff v. Pru Bache. Obtained a rare punitive damage award from an NASD panel against a broker-dealer.
  • TPS v. Avanti. In this case, after receiving summary judgment, the client recovered a favorable confidential amount from the defendants.
  • Lerma v. Paine Webber, et seq. This resulted in the largest individual arbitration award (and recoveries) ever received in an individual securities case in the United States.
  • Northern Natural, et al. v. ELF Aquitaine. Successfully represented a consortium of working interest owners who gained control of a multibillion-dollar offshore oil block.
  • The Fiesta Cases. In an early class action suit, a class of poor Hispanic depositors recovered more than $11 million from various defendants.
  • The Lansco Cases. In twin cases, Lansco was first successfully defended against a theft-of-trade-secret claim in a jury trial. In the latter trial, a multimillion-dollar verdict was secured in favor of Lansco.
  • Mercer v. Encore Bank. Successfully represented Encore Bank against an $11 million damage claim in an AAA arbitration.
  • The Varel Cases. Secured permanent injunctions and seven-figure damage award in trade secret case.
  • Thompson v. Columbia Medical Care Systems. Served as co-counsel in a seminal qui tam case that resulted in multi-billion dollar settlements. The legal opinions rendered in this case have served as the foundation of most other Medicare cases.
  • United States v. One Gate’s Lear Jet. On appeal, the United States lost this forfeiture action; it was the only reported action of this kind ever lost by the government.
  • Wing v. CRC. In this co-generation plant dispute, a favorable settlement was reached immediately before trial.

Mr. O’Neil received a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy in 1967.  He received his J.D., summa cum laude, in 1973 from the University of Texas School of Law where he was a member of the Texas Law Review and elected to the Order of the Coif.

Honors & Awards

Recently, Mr. O'Neill was listed in the 2015 edition of Best Lawyers in America for commercial litigation. In 2004, Mr. O’Neill was selected by Texas Lawyer as “Impact Lawyer of the Year” and has been named a “Texas Super Lawyer” every year since the award was established.


Mr. O’Neill’s pro bono work includes the defense of a deportation action by the INS and securing religious asylum for a 14-year-old child. It was the first known action of this kind against the INS in the Houston area that was lost by the INS in more than 14,000 cases. He also served as co-counsel for a case involving a Sudanese refugee who had been accused of welfare fraud. He obtained a jury acquittal of the case.

Mr. O’Neill is a member of the American Bar Association and the Federal Regulation of Securities Committee’s Section of Corporation, Banking and Business Law (1978 – Present).

Publications & Speaking Engagements

Mr. O’Neill is the co-author of The New York Times' bestseller “Unfit for Command.” He has also been the subject of extensive biographies in The New York TimesNational ReviewHouston Chronicle, and Texas Monthly.


  • Texas


  • U.S. Supreme Court for Hon. William H. Rehnquist


  • University of Texas, JD, 1973
  • United States Naval Academy, BS, 1967